No More “President” Gbagbo at the Trial

No more “President Gbagbo.”  From now on, it will be “Mr. Gbagbo” in this court. In addition to this judge’s decision, the February 12 hearing saw the end of the cross-examination of the Abobo women’s march witness and the presentation of a new witness.

The hearing started at 9:30am. Charles Blé Goudé has something to say. There’s a problem he wanted to raise; a problem in connection with the early hour at which he and Laurent Gbagbo arrive in court. “It’s about the facilities here,” he says. “We stay for one hour or one hour 30 minutes in a room where it is very cold…We would like to have blankets…And there’s also the departure time…We leave at 8:00am [from the prison] and arrive five minutes later.”

The Judge Cuno Tarfusser nodded. He will deal with the issue.

During this short day, Judge Tarfusser also made a symbolic decision: there will be no more “President Gbagbo” in the court. Only the title of “Mr.” may be attached to the former Ivorian president’s name.

A desire to calm things down

For the presiding judge, such a decision by the chamber, following the request of the Legal Representative of Victims to prevent the use of this title, is motivated by a desire to “calm things down.”

Addressing Emmanuel Altit, the lead counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, Judge Tarfusser agreed with his position: “The Chamber agrees that you are perfectly right…A title remains attached to its holder forever…But we are here in a courtroom and the accused are all equal before the law…Therefore, the Chamber requests that you no longer use this title. ”

Before this decision, the cross-examination of Witness P-190, a woman who was at the Abobo women’s march on March 3, 2011, was completed.

People left Abobo because “they were afraid

During cross-examination, Jennifer Naouri, a member Gbagbo’s defense team, repeatedly insisted, as she did yesterday, on the witness’s fear: “Weren’t you afraid when you went out?” “Why weren’t you afraid?” “And you were not afraid when you attended meetings there [in PK18, an Abobo neighborhood]?”

“Madam Witness” said she did not go out when she heard the shots, which “came from close to the station;” the “remote” shots she does not know where they came from. Regarding PK18, she said she only went there to attend RDR meetings [Republicans’ Rally, Alassane Ouattara’s party] before the presidential election, “at a time when there was no rioting.”

Naouri then considered Abobo resident’s exodus. She asks about the number of people who fled the town during the crisis. Judge Tarfusser let it be known that the question does not suit him: “Come on, come on…How can she know that? I think this goes beyond the knowledge of any witness.”

The witness recalled, however, that people were leaving because “they were afraid” when they heard shots whose origin was even unknown to them.

But Naouri emphasized the presence of rebels in Abobo. “Was it the invisible commando that was shooting?” Judge Tarfusser interrupted, looking annoyed: “I do not understand…She said she does not know!”

Blé Goudé’s defense abstains

Photographs and videos were also submitted to the court by the defense. One such item of evidence showed the presence of men at the demonstration. The witness stated that she had not noticed the presence of men. Naouri asked who gave the instructions during the march. “It was a woman,” the witness said.

Considering that all the questions have been asked, the Blé Goudé defense team decided not to proceed with its own cross-examination. Then, the judge expressed his gratitude for this effort to accelerate the procedure.

The next witness was present but questioning does not start until Monday. “Good weekend to all and also to myself,” concluded the presiding judge.

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Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and other inhumane acts, or – in the alternative – attempted murder and persecution. The accused allegedly committed these crimes during post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.

This summary comes from Ivoire Justice , a project of Radio Netherlands Worldwide(RNW), which offers monitoring and commentary on the ICC’s proceedings arising from the post-election violence that occurred in Cote d’Ivoire in 2010-2011. It has been translated into English for use on International Justice Monitor.

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